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Zagreb on course for new football stadium

Croatian Football Federation (HNS) president Davor Šuker has said plans are in place to develop a new stadium for the national team in Zagreb.

Šuker, a legendary figure in Croatian football, was speaking as the HNS held its general assembly meeting yesterday (Thursday). The standard of stadia in the capital has proved a talking point of late and it was reported last month that the City of Zagreb is set to embark on a major renovation of its Stadion Maksimir, home of Prva HNL champion Dinamo Zagreb and the national team.

Stadion Maksimir first opened in 1912 and has a current capacity of around 35,000. A city council spokeswoman said renovation was seen as necessary as the stadium is city-owned property that needs to reflect the status of Croatia in world football. The national team advanced to the final of the FIFA World Cup last summer before ultimately losing 4-2 to France.

Speaking yesterday, Šuker said the HNS has held a two-day meeting with the City and Croatian government, adding that the federation is on the “right track” to develop a “wonderful stadium” in the Novi Zagreb suburb of Blato.

“We are on the right path to build a stadium with a capacity of 25-30,000 people,” Šuker said, according to Croatian newspaper Jutarnji list. “I hope in the next two years we will have a beautiful stadium built.”

Šuker said the HNS will be able to use financial support from European and world governing bodies UEFA and FIFA, adding that the federation will remain committed to taking national team games around the country.

He said: “At the moment a stadium is being developed in Osijek and in Rijeka, Rujevica was built. The stadium in Zagreb won’t be a national stadium, but a city stadium. Croatia will continue to play in Pula, Rijeka, all across the country. We are also thinking about Split as it’s important we satisfy all regions. We will help Poljud stadium to be redeveloped. We need to talk and find money so everyone is happy.”

Croatia opened its Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win over Azerbaijan at the Maksimir (pictured) on March 21. Ahead of the start of the qualifiers, Šuker pointed to the quality of facilities available in its rival countries in Group E, picking out Groupama Arena in Budapest, Hungary, as a template for what could be achieved in Croatia.

He added yesterday: “It is sad that in qualifying we will play at great new stadiums in Budapest, Bratislava, Baku and Cardiff and the World Cup runners-up do not have an adequate home in their country, where they have provided so much joy.”

Regarding the Blato site, Šuker said: “It is an ideal location for the people of the city, I leave it to the city assembly and the mayor and believe that everything will be done in this mandate. Today’s sanitary conditions at Maksimir are in the 19th century.”

Image: HNS